Friday, January 1, 2010

New Years Past

Another new year! One more set of 365 days that we hope to enjoy. And, as time goes by, each of these years becomes more precious.

New Year’s Day has always been a church day for me. Both a holyday and a holiday. But as youngsters we all regretted that it fell during Christmas vacation and didn’t give us another day off from school.

Many, many years ago there was a time when it was almost an absolute must for many of us young fellows to be out and about and making the rounds on New Year’s Eve. Provided the winter weather and road conditions cooperated. For a number of years the huge Checkerboard Ballroom at Prairie du Chien was a great place to congregate. There we were certain to run into almost everyone we knew – friends from all of the neighboring towns. There was no better place for music and dancing, and at midnight, hats, horns, whistles, noisemakers, confetti, balloons, and everything it else required to make for an enjoyable and memorable evening. On New Year’s Eve, most dance bands didn’t pack up at one o’clock, but continued playing at least until “halfway to daylight.”

As the years have gone by, I’ve found less and less need for New Year’s Eve socializing. Less desire to fight the cold and the snow, and take chances on icy roads. And to contend with the unusually heavy, speeding traffic, with many of the drivers not in condition to operate their vehicles at their skillful best. Home is now a comfortable place to be. There is no longer any reason or need to stay awake until midnight to “see the New Year in.”

The year 2000 has treated me well. With health, home, family, and a car that runs well and gets at least 30 miles per gallon of $1.50-plus gasoline, I feel that I just about have it all. I attended my first cat show this past summer. And, to my surprise, I really enjoyed it. Then, this fall we attended the “annual grape stomp” at a large winery, complete with grape stomping, grape spitting, and cork throwing contests.

In November we made our first-ever journey to Bankston, Iowa to wish Cousin Grace Gotto a happy birthday. And to help her and her family, friends, and relatives celebrate. The large hall was filled and the crowd included a lot of my Iowa cousins, many with names like Ellerbach, Wilwert, and Hayes. Also quite a few younger Gotto cousins. It’s always great to see those folks again. I’ll say one thing for Bankston. People there really know how to celebrate a birthday.

But the year hasn’t been all fun and games. I attended far too many wakes and funerals this year. An unusual number of my relatives and close friends, both young and old, failed to survive the year. Some day I suppose I will delete the late, great Tom Gifford’s name and e-mail address from my computer’s address book. But for the time being, it will remain. Just for old time’s sake. What an individual! What a great writer! What a great loss his untimely passing was for all of us!

I’ve never been much for New Year’s Resolutions. But maybe I should be. Making the resolutions isn’t usually all that difficult a chore. Down through the years I’ve tried a few. Decided that I would make changes that would improve my health, happiness, and success. Usually we can easily find a few faults, flaws, and weaknesses in our makeup. At least I have no problem there. It’s actually the keeping of the resolutions that presents the problems.

NEW YEAR’S, 2001

Now is the time to celebrate
The birth of a brand-new year,
A time for faith and hope and trust,
Not for worry or for fear.

No time to mope about the past,
But to look forward, instead.
Focus on a brighter future,
Envision great days ahead.

We know with each day problems come,
Every month’s another test,
Our whole lifetime’s built out of years,
Let’s make this new one the best.

We’ll seek out progress and success
As this new year passes by.
If we fail, let’s make sure it’s not
Because we just didn’t try.

We often can blame just ourselves
For defeats in early years.
We’ve ignored the success blueprint
Hidden right between our ears.

We’re all seeking a better way,
Hoping to “get in the groove,”
But things don’t just “fall into place”
We have to make the first move.

Most times there really is no need
To relocate, rove, or roam,
Often our “acres of diamonds”
Lie hidden right close to home.

So let’s get those brain cells working,
Be prepared to plan and dream.
Keep looking for the bright side, and
Find that winning theme or scheme.

Happiness follows clear thinking,
Persistence and strength of heart,
Making New Year’s Resolutions
Seems the perfect way to start!